713 Edgebrook Drive
Champaign, IL 61820
$49.95, color or monochrome
Reviewed by Ron Schaefer, M.D.
SubLOGIC has recently released a realistic jet fighter combat simulation called Jet for the Atari ST. If you loved the movie Top Gun and have always fantasized about aerial combat beyond the speed of sound, then this is the program you have been waiting for.
Jet comes on one single-sided disk with a nicely done, 55-page paperbound manual that does a good job describing the somewhat complex controls, the rules, aircraft technical data and a brief history of fighter jets.
The program will auto-boot or can be started from the desktop. After a title screen you can choose from ten different playing modes: demonstration mode, F-16 Fighting Falcon dogfight, F-16 target strike, F-16 free flight, F-16 combined attack, F/A-18 Hornet dogfight, F/A-18 target strike, F/A-18 free flight, scenery disk load, and multiplayer dogfight. Next you select the difficulty, ranging from practice mode, where you can't crash and no enemy fires on you, to almost impossible, where missiles come falling like rain and your jet crashes easily.
In the F-16 dogfight mode, you start in your hanger, where you hit the throttle and taxi out onto the runway. You can toggle radar, a map, a second 3-D view, a targeting circle or a heads-up altitude indicator. One nice feature is that you can set up to ten custom window configurations that can later be recalled with a single keystroke. If you want a different perspective, you can look out of your jet in all directions, zooming in or out, or view your jet from the control tower or a spot plane. The graphics are 3-D solid raster, complete with shadows. To speed up the action you have the option of turning off the shadows or going to vector graphics.
Taxiing down the runway (using the mouse, the keyboard or your favorite joystick), you punch the throttle and lift off into the wild blue yonder—or gray yonder if you are using the program in monochrome. Remember to retract your landing gear to reduce air drag. Now spotting a squadron of enemy fighters on your radar, you bank your jet to meet them in combat. The MIG-21s are less maneuverable than your jet, but about the same speed. In the higher difficulty levels, you will encounter more MIG-23s, that are actually faster than you are.
Your first form of attack is your missiles. You have two types: AIM-9 Side Winders, medium range (5 miles) and heat-seeking; and AIM-7 Sparrows, longer range (25 miles) and radar homing. Maneuvering your jet into position, you line up a MIG-23 in your sights. When the MIG gets into range, a targeting computer shows when a missile hit is likely, and you fire. If you want, you can now turn on the camera in the tip of the missile and follow it kamikaze style.
A beeping sound alerts you to the presence of incoming enemy missiles—time for some evasive maneuvering. Jerking back on the joystick, you shoot straight up, spinning wildly. You pull nine Gs and black out momentarily, but the manuever works; your radar shows that the missiles have missed. Turning back into battle, you launch two more deadly Side Winder missiles reducing the enemy squadron to only two planes. You and the remaining MIGs circle each other in tight circles, and you take a couple missile hits, each one knocking your plane briefly into an uncontrolled spin. Blasting away with your machine guns, one more MIG bites the dust and disappears in a cloud of smoke. But from behind, that last MIG-23 has hit you. Your F-16 is critically damaged, sirens are sounding and lights flashing. Your only choice is to eject.
After you eject, you change your perspective to the tower, zoom in and watch as your parachute opens, and you float gently to the ground. You still have two more jets to complete this scenario, and for each 10,000 points, you will be awarded another jet. At the end of the scenario, you will be shown your points and what medals you have won, such as a Silver Star, Air Medal or Purple Heart.
In the F-16 target strike mode, your enemy consists of ground installations that you can detect on your radar. Your mission is to destroy them using AGM-65S Maverick optically guided missiles and MK-82 Smart Bombs. However, this is no duck shoot; as you approach these ground targets, you are bombarded with antiaircraft missiles which you must avoid. You can land back at your airport to repair any damage or to refuel and rearm.
The F/A-18 dogfight mode is very similar to the F-16 one, except that you launch from the deck of an aircraft carrier. The mission once again is to destroy the enemy fighters. There is added difficulty since now to refuel, rearm or repair, you must land on the carrier deck—no easy task. In the F/A-18 target strike, your mission is to sink a flotilla of enemy ships, again using your smart bombs and avoiding being shot down by the enemy ship-based antiaircraft missiles.
The F-16 free flight and F/A-18 free flight is for practicing acrobatics and landings, especially those carrier landings. You can also explore a scenery disk that you have loaded with the Scenery Disk Load option. These scenery disks are the same that subLOGIC uses for its Flight Simulator II program, including San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, Japan and Western Europe.
The final mode is Multi-Player Dogfight. This can be done in two ways: over the telephone at 300, 1200 or 2400 baud or by connecting two Atari ST's together with a null modem cable. You can order a null modem cable from sub-LOGIC for $4.95 plus $2 for shipping or, following the instructions, make your own.
In summary, I feel that Jet's controls are difficult to master and should be improved. Even a small movement can send you wildly out of control. The graphics are good but jerky, especially when compared to Carrier Command or Starglider II. I did not enjoy the target strike missions nearly as much as the dogfights. The multiple player mode is nice, and I look forward to trying it over the phone lines.
The game play in Jet is superior to some other jet fighter simulations I have played, including Sky Fox, Harrier Strike Mission, F-15 Strike Eagle and the newly released Sky Chase. I am anxiously awaiting the Atari ST release of the arcade hit Afterburner, and I have also heard that the author of Starglider II is working on a jet fighter simulation. But that is then and this is now, and it's back to Jet to see if I have the right stuff.
Recommendation: Get a demonstration before buying.
Ron Schaefer, M.D., lives in Hawaii, where he specializes in internal medicine. He has published research on 3-D molecular modeling of proteins and DNA, as well as numerous articles on the Atari ST.